Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Hey, Johnny Damon, Curb Your Agent

For Johnny Damon to return as a New York Yankee in 2010, he will need to take a page from the Alex Rodriguez playbook.

And I don’t mean Damon needs to divorce his wife and then cavort with an aging rocker followed by a comely blonde actress in her early thirties.

What Damon needs to do is tell agent Scott Boras to curb the rhetoric because the Yankees can win in 2010 and beyond without him.

A-Rod nearly played his way out of New York after the 2007 season.

Taking Boras’s advice, he exercised his contractual option and announced, during Game 4 of the Red Sox-Rockies World Series, that he had become a free agent.

Only after A-Rod muzzled Boras and contacted the Yankees himself did he and the club work out the 10-year deal that allowed A-Rod to finally win his first World Series title.

Damon needs to borrow the Boras muzzle from A-Rod before it’s too late.

Clearly, Boras loves to use the media to negotiate contracts for his clients.

But his strategy often succeeds only in making a client a better-paid loser in a new city while alienating the fans in the city that player left behind.

Case in point: Former Seattle Mariner Alex Rodriguez of the Texas Rangers.

Another case in point: Former Los Angeles Dodger Chan-Ho Park of the Texas Rangers.

Yet another: Former Texas Ranger Pudge Rodriguez of the Detroit Tigers.

Damon turned 36 on November 3, the day before the left fielder helped the Yankees win their 27th league championship — a pro sports record.

Actually, November 3 was the day before Damon limped off the Yankee Stadium turf during Game 6 with a hamstring injury so severe he would have had to sit out Game 7, had there been one.

That is part of the problem: The Yankees need to get younger and more athletic in the outfield, and Boras’s rhetoric could compel the team to look elsewhere for a left fielder.

According to Boras, Damon’s durability is “off the charts.”

Yes, Damon has played in at least 140 games in 14 big-league seasons. But he played hurt more often than he should have to achieve that streak, and he has the weakest throwing arm of any starting outfielder in baseball.

According to Boras, the Yankees should pay Damon “market value” for a player of his age and track record.

Clearly, Boras is suggesting the Yankees offer Damon a multi-year deal commensurate with the four-year, $52 million contract signed by catcher Jorge Posada who was 36 at the time, or the three-year, $45 million contract signed by relief ace Mariano Rivera who was about to turn 38, or the multi-year deal that shortstop Derek Jeter will sign to remain in pinstripes as a 36-year-old.

The Yankees won’t do that. Nor should they.

Damon, however important he was to the Yankees’ championship season, is not remotely as vital to the team as Posada — a switch-hitting catcher with power from both sides and a team leader — or Rivera — the finest relief pitcher in major league history.

The Yankees should offer Damon a two-year contract worth between $20 million-$22 million.

If Boras convinces Damon the offer isn’t good enough…Sayonara.

The Yankees could then pursue Los Angeles Angels free agent Chone Figgins, who is 31 and faster than Damon with a better arm.

The Yankees could also hope World Series Most Valuable Player Hideki Matsui recovers well enough from knee surgery to play 40-50 games in left field in 2010. Figgins, or a rotating group of players, could man the position the rest of the season.

If that happens, it would be, as Yankees legend Yogi Berra would say, “déjà vu all over again” for Damon.

The Boston Red Sox let Damon walk after their 2004 world championship when he rejected their four-year, $40 million offer.

The Yankees came to the rescue with a four-year, $52 million deal.

That won’t happen this time.

Boras seems blissfully unaware of that. It is up to Damon to muzzle his media-loving agent while explaining it.

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